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Industrial Engineer vs. Civil Engineer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Industrial and civil engineering are two popular engineering fields that have many similarities. Both types of engineers use math and science to solve problems and improve systems. However, there are some key differences between industrial and civil engineering. In this article, we compare and contrast industrial and civil engineering, and we discuss the skills and education you need for each profession.

What is an Industrial Engineer?

Industrial Engineers work to streamline production processes in factories, plants or other industrial settings. They optimize workflows to increase efficiency and minimize waste. They also develop safety protocols and train workers on how to follow procedures correctly. To do this, Industrial Engineers often use computer simulations and models to test different process designs. They also collect data from workers and production equipment to identify inefficiencies. Industrial Engineers typically work in manufacturing, but they can also be found in the healthcare, service and retail industries.

What is a Civil Engineer?

Civil Engineers are responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, dams, canals and water treatment facilities. They work with a variety of other professionals, including architects, environmental scientists and construction workers, to ensure that projects are completed safely, on time and within budget. Civil Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and many are licensed professionals.

Industrial Engineer vs. Civil Engineer

Here are the main differences between an industrial engineer and a civil engineer.

Job Duties

Civil engineers and industrial engineers carry out very different duties when performing their jobs. Civil engineers focus on planning, designing and overseeing construction projects. They use their expertise in mathematics and physics to determine the most suitable methods for constructing buildings that meet the required specifications. Industrial engineers, however, concentrate on improving manufacturing processes and ensuring production efficiency. They may devise new procedures or strategies for employee training, develop machinery or software programs to assist employees with their work and more.

Job Requirements

Industrial engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, although some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree. These programs usually take four years to complete and include coursework in topics like mathematics, statistics and computer science. Many industrial engineering programs also require students to complete an internship before they graduate.

Civil engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the field, but many civil engineers pursue a master’s degree as well. These programs typically take four years to complete and include coursework in topics like mathematics, physics and chemistry. Like industrial engineering programs, civil engineering programs often require students to complete an internship before they graduate.

Work Environment

Civil engineers typically work in construction sites, where they oversee the building of roads and bridges. They may also work in offices to design projects or manage teams of workers. Industrial engineers often work in manufacturing facilities, where they help companies improve production processes. Some industrial engineers work for consulting firms that travel to different locations to provide services.

Civil engineers usually work outdoors, while industrial engineers spend most of their time indoors. Civil engineers may occasionally work at night when there are road closures or other emergencies. Both types of engineers can work long hours during emergency situations.


Both industrial engineers and civil engineers use problem-solving skills in their jobs. Industrial engineers typically design products that solve a problem or address a need facing individuals, families and business owners. Civil engineers usually work on infrastructure projects, such as bridges, roads and water systems, and they need to find ways to overcome challenges that can include environmental factors, budget constraints and construction deadlines.

An industrial engineer needs technical skills to perform their job, including circuit design, advanced mathematics, linear systems and analysis and electrical schematics. A civil engineer also needs technical knowledge, but they need to know more basic information about how infrastructure systems work. Both of these professionals need to have the ability to follow safety protocols because they are often working with dangerous materials.

While an industrial engineer uses communication skills when they are creating reports of their research, corresponding with other engineers and colleagues and developing blueprints for their products, they are not necessarily going to be interacting with customers directly. A civil engineer is going to need interpersonal skills because they will most likely be interacting with people on a daily basis while they assist customers with solving infrastructure issues.


Industrial engineers earn an average salary of $85,856 per year, while civil engineers earn an average salary of $92,614 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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